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Re: NCC: Against Akunyili’s rule of might

Having followed Ndukwe’s NCC and the shabby way with which the commission sold the 2.3GHZ Spectrum, I later decided to do a rejoinder to put…

Having followed Ndukwe’s NCC and the shabby way with which the commission sold the 2.3GHZ Spectrum, I later decided to do a rejoinder to put the record straight. But before I go into the 2.3GHZ Spectrum wahala, let me say that the track record of the Minister of Information and Communications, Professor Dora Akunyili does not suggest that she is lawless, inconsiderate as Opeyemi would want us to believe.

As NAFDAC DG, she followed due process in all she did, including the sealing up of bakeries, factories, shops and markets that went contrary to best practices and traditions in food and drugs administration. If it were to be a power drunk Nigerian that oversaw that sensitive agency, she would have been power drunk. But there was a Dora that obeyed all court orders. No judge ever complained of her disobedience of court injunctions! No drug faker or counterfeiter ever complained that Dora was highhanded. The Ministers of Health under whom she worked for over eight years didn’t complain of Dora’s intransigence. So where did Opeyemi draw his conclusion that the Minister always likes dominating her ‘‘environment.’’

As chief spokesperson, Dora couldn’t have thrown her integrity to the dogs. So when it was glaring to the Minister that the sale of 2.3GHZ Spectrum was everything but transparent, she called Ndukwe to a meeting in her office and directed him to stop the sale of the licence. But Ndukwe refused.

The press reported this episode. For God’s sake NCC is an agency under the supervision of the Ministry of Information and Communications. If the Minister gave a directive, especially when it is in good faith and in compliance with the law, it must be obeyed because it is the dog that should wag the tail and not the other way round! If Ndukwe flouts the directive of the Minister who is her immediate boss, he invariably disobeys President Umaru Yar’adua.

Aside this, the Minister, by virtue of Part 2, Section 27 (1) (a) of the Communications Act 2003 is the Chairman of the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC), the body saddled with the sacred responsibility of carrying out allocation of Spectrum that should be sold by NCC to the operators in the communications sector.

The NCC, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and many other bodies are members of the Council. But in this very sale, it was not discussed in Council. At least, that was what the Minister told the House of Representatives Committee on Communications in May when   the latter paid her courtesy call in her office. Up till now, NCC has not refuted this claim. If Ndukwe believes Dora was lying, he should produce the minute of the meeting where the sale of 2.3HZ Spectrum was discussed!

In case Opeyemi is ignorant of the Act 2003, he should read section 28 (e) and (f). It states: NFMC shall ‘‘carryout bulk trans-sectoral allocation of spectrum to statutory bodies that are authorised by enabling laws to allocate spectrum to end-users and receive and allocate returns and statistics on spectrum allocation to end-users from the statutory bodies specified…’’. Since the Council did not allocate it before NCC sold it, the licence is a nullity already. That is what rule of law implies and not rule of Akunyili’s might as postulated by Opeyemi.

I believe for Opeyemi to interpret Section 121 of the Act out of context is puckish and must be disregarded by the public.   Opeyemi wrote and I quote: ‘‘Section 121 of the Communications Act 2003 grants the NCC “the sole and exclusive power to manage and administer the frequency spectrum for the communications sector and in that regard to grant licences for and regulate the use of the said frequency spectrum… The powers of the minister under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, so far as they relate to communications, are vested in the NCC.”  But he impishly avoided the proviso contained in the section that clearly gives the Minister the power to call for the cancellation of the controversial spectrum. Good enough, the section he relied upon starts with the proviso but because Opeyemi wants to thwart facts, he looked the other way. That caveat is:  ‘‘Notwithstanding the provisions of any other written law but subject to the provisions of this Act,…’’

And since the Act prescribes that allocations must be done by the Council before NCC assumes the sole and exclusive power of managing and administering the frequency spectrum, hasn’t NCC violated the same Section 121 that Opeyemi quoted from? I know Opeyemi was aware of this and that was why he left out the proviso in his write up! What a shame!

Aside this, the advertisement that called for payment from prospective operators was not appropriate as it gave only five working days to the companies to raise the licence fees in contravention of the Public Procurement Act. This also forced many Nigerians to bombard the Minister with petitions. Does Opeyemi want the Minister to fold her arms and watch? If she had done that, she would have lost her hard-earned credibility.  

I think Dora should be commended by the likes of Opeyemi for deepening the rule of law and for reviving the NFMC in such a way that the Council now lives up to its statutory task. Before the foray of Dora, the NFMC existed only on papers! Today, Nigerians pay high tariffs to service their handsets, yet the service is poor. The country is being ripped off by the service providers and NCC is not bothered because its interest is being taken care of by the telecoms Companies.  I believe with Dora insisting on compliance with the law and her insistence on service delivery, Nigerians shall enjoy quality and effective telecommunications at affordable cost in no distant time.

Nicholas Oche, a communications expert, lives in Makurdi, (Ochenick11@yahoo.com)